In Falluja, soldiers fired upon rock-throwing demonstrators, killing seven of them and wounding as many as 70 more. It is the first reported instance of troops assaulting demonstrators since protests against the Maliki government began in December. Later, three soldiers were shot dead in retaliation. Clashes also occurred east of the city. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki implied the demonstrators were at fault during a speech asking for calm, while the Iraqiya party blamed Maliki.
Five weeks ago, Baghdad arrested several bodyguards working for Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, who is Sunni. That set off protests across Sunni regions of Iraq, but they have been mostly peaceful. Today, the soldiers deployed to Falluja prevented demonstrators from reaching a protest after weekly prayer services. Apparently, the arrest of three demonstrators, drove the protestors to throw rocks and water bottles at the troops. At first, the soldiers responded by firing into the air, but then turned the guns on the demonstrators. Because a number of armed civilians were seen roaming the streets, a curfew is in effect. Anbar’s provincial government announced that federal police will replace the soldiers now stationed in Falluja.
Meanwhile, at least seven Iraqis were killed and two more were wounded in other violence.
In Mosul, a roadside bomb killed three policemen and wounded two others.
Police conducted a raid in Jazira, where they killed four gunmen and destroyed a car bomb factory.
Rockets fell on the Dijla Operations Command H.Q. in Kirkuk, but no casualties were reported.
Read more by Margaret Griffis
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